Craftworking in the lab

After 5 years at IBEC, Elena’s stage as a doctoral student comes to an end, next 11th December she is presenting her thesis… but this is just the beginning the brilliant research career ahead of her. Last July, she was granted a CaixaImpulse project as Project Leader to develop a new technology for rapid, cheap and efficient diagnosis of Malaria.


Number 5 is indeed a very super special number to Elena: 5 years of her PhD, 5 is the number of fields they count in the microscope to calculate parasitaemia (the quantitative content of parasites in the blood) in the culture, 5 is the number of thesis that she has seen finished in her group just before she defends hers. So, imagine what Elena will achieve 5 years from now.

Elena studied Biotechnology in Universitat de Valencia and then a master’s degree in Nanostructured Materials for Nanotechnological Applications in Zaragoza. Five years ago, she arrived at IBEC and since the moment she put a foot on a lab, she loved doing research. Her PhD has given her the opportunity to work in a changing environment, to face new challenges and get to meet a lot of people from very different backgrounds. During this period, 28 people have co-worked with her in the Nanomalaria group, (and Elena is 28 years old now another numerical coincidence?) and that has made the best part of her work. Being able to share with them the ups and downs of research and supporting each other’s work is what matters at the end of the day.



At the Nanomalaria group, they try to adapt the latest technologies to the malaria field, an endemic disease from developing countries. They use cell cultures adapted for the parasite Plasmodium, which is intracellular, and mouse animal models to test different compounds to find an efficient treatment for this disease.

On a first impression, Elena might seem a little bit shy with a cautious personality, but she manages really well when she is not in her comfort zone. In 2017, she had the chance to be a speaker in the TEDx event organized in Zaragoza. That was something she was not used to doing but since then, she is ready to face all kind of audiences and new challenges. As we mentioned before, she has been recently granted a CaixaImpulse project, and she had to present her project many times in many different formats and to very different audiences. She also had to learn about Tech Transfer and business which is not her expertise, but she learns and adapts to every situation, just like a chameleon.

One of her biggest passions is handcrafting, she can spend hours and hours painting in any surface, cutting or shaping papers, cardboards or fabrics… she still hasn’t finished one piece and she is already thinking about what she is going to do next, she always has something in mind. This passion has helped her in her research work, whenever she starts a lab protocol that is a bit “crafty-like” she feels like she is not working and she enjoys every bit of it just as much as she her hobby.

So after this 5 long and amazing years, after meeting so many people, counting parasites inside red blood cells, getting out of her comfort zone… we are very glad that you are presenting your brilliant thesis and very proud of your recognition as Project Leader, well done Elena!